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The Not So Scary Truth About SEO

SEO is a term that is thrown around in daily conversations around the office, but what does it mean exactly? SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s unpaid results, which are often referred to as “organic” or “earned” results.

SEO rules can change upon a moment’s notice. It is important to stay in the information loop so you are getting the traffic you deserve to your website. Ultimately, understanding how SEO works will help draw in more visits to your site.

  • You must be mobile friendly.

If your site is not mobile-friendly, you will not rank in mobile search results. Mobile search is the pinnacle of local SEO making up 60% of searches.

  • Bad SEO is bad for business.

A nickname for the bad guys in Western movies, “Black Hat” SEO is a practice that increases a page’s rank in search engines through means that violate the search engines’ terms of service. Black Hat SEO evolves as search engines change the rules about what is acceptable and what is not; tactics that were once good become toxic. As long as you are filling your website with quality content, link to other quality sites, and stay on top of innovations, you are golden.

  • Duplicate content can hurt your SEO, but not always.

Duplicate content is not as bad as it once was for a website. As long as you use recognized tags when you republish content on your site, duplicate content is not as devastating as you might imagine. If a site is using your content without permission, you should still report them, but there is less need to worry about consequences from Google.

  • Incoming links are not always good for SEO.

Incoming links are a great way to boost your ranking, except when the place that is linking to you has some sort of authority issue. Questionable domains and sites unrelated to your industry can hurt you rank. In this case, quality is far more important than quantity.

  • Everything must be relevant.

Everything you publish on your site must be related to your website’s focus. Image descriptions, HTML tags, title, sub-headers, and other page attributions should all be semantically related to the purpose of your page.

Take Public Speaking by the Horns

If you fear public speaking, you are not alone. Known as “glossophobia”, the fear of public speaking is the most common of all social anxieties.

Luckily, it is an anxiety that we can be taught to conquer. From the popular Ted Talk series, there are six significant ways in which we can improve upon our public speaking abilities.

  • Use the tools in your vocal box

          Register: Speak in a deeper voice so that you are associated with authority.

          Timbre: Meaning the way your voice feels. People prefer rich, smooth and warm voices.

          Prosody: Meaning the melody of how we speak. It’s important to avoid monotone.

          Pace: It’s important to vary the speed of your speech, and strategically use silence.

          Pitch: Varying in pitch can change the feeling or message that comes from a statement.

          Volume: The use of loud and soft speech can add emphasis or cause your audience to listen carefully and respectfully.

  • Be Engaged: Be passionate and familiar enough with your presentation so that you can be excited and animated while you present, rather than just reading information from a screen. This will make your audience want to stay engaged with you.
  • Keep Their Attention: Keep the presentation short. Typically, people’s attention spans start to drop off after about 18 minutes. Keep their attention by using headlines instead of bullet points and adding images to PowerPoints.
  • Connect with the Audience: Make it easier for your audience to understand what you’re talking about by drawing parallels between them and your topic, in order to present familiar situations in a relatable way.
  • Body Language: Body language affects our behaviors. For example, we smile when we’re happy, but we also feel happier when we smile. Therefore, you must keep your posture open, rather than hunched over and closed off so that you send the right message to your audience.
  • Break the Ice: Tell a joke before a talk, or even poke gentle fun at oneself in moderation. This help the you stay calm your nerves, and it will help the audience relax and be entertained.

Overall, with baby steps, all of us can overcome the fear of public speaking, as long as we practice presenting and remember to engage the audience.

For an inside look at each of the above tips in action, check out the following Ted Talks: How to Speak So That People Want to Listen by Julian Treasure, The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen by Hans Rosling, How to Pitch to a VC by David S. Rose, How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek, Once Upon a Time, My Mother… by Carmen Agra Deedy, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy, How I Beat Stage Fright by Joe Kowan

6 Writing Mistakes PR Pros Should Never Make

In the PR world, most of your work consists of writing so it is important to make sure your work is grammatically correct and error free. But no matter what field you work in, writing is unavoidable. Think of all the emails, reports, and performance reviews written each day. If you are making common writing mistakes, your peers have most likely taken note. A report or email filled with avoidable writing mistakes is seen as unprofessional and careless. Many of the mistakes you are making, you might not even be aware of. Review this list and cut these errors out of your business writing:

  1. “Here’s some”: This is a fairly common phrase, as in, “Here’s some tips on how to beat writer’s block.” This is incorrect because “here’s” means “here is.” The correct version is “Here are some…” because you are referring to multiple tips.
  2. There, their, and they’re : Confusing these three words is still a common mistake, even in PR. There is a place, their shows possession, and they’re is short for they are. This is an error that most people will notice right away in your writing so be mindful when choosing the correct word.
  3. Long-winded sentences: Aim to write like Hemingway. People are busy, and they do not want to waste their time poring over complex and drawn-out sentences. Write short sentences and simple words that get right to the point and make your writing easy to understand.
  4. Stationery vs. stationary: These two words can be easily mixed up because they are pronounced the same, but they have different meanings. Stationery with an “e” is paper that you use for writing letters or notes and is something PR firms often design for their clients. Stationary with an “a” means not moving or fixed in one place.
  5. Buzzwords: PR writing is filled with buzzwords and jargon that puts a wall up between you and your readers and can confuse them. While it may sound professional, your readers most likely will not appreciate the lingo. Lose the buzzwords and write plainly and concisely.
  6. i.e. and e.g.: These two abbreviations are frequently used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. The first, i.e., is Latin for “id est,” which means “that is.” It is used to re-state an idea or fact for clarity for better understanding (think: “in other words”). The second, e.g., is short for “exempli gratia,” which means “for example.” It is used to indicate that what follows is a particular example of the generality just stated. Use i.e. to summarize and re-state and idea and e.g. to list examples.

If you eliminate these errors out of your business writing practices, you will be on a path to better writing in no time. Your reports and emails will be more professional, and your co-workers will stop nitpicking you.

 

4 Reasons to Bring Back “Old School” Customer Service

Technology has made keeping in touch with customers easy. While customers enjoy how streamlined and fast-paced communication with businesses has become, there is something cold and impersonal about many 21st century transactions. No matter how much technology improves, customers will choose brands and companies that take the time to get to know them, interact with them, and make them feel like they matter. No matter what business you are in there is still a human being on the receiving end, and that human being has a name, a face, and feelings.

In a world of constantly-evolving technology, here are four approaches to help you bring back “old school” customer service:

  1. Show customers that you care. You can provide fast, on-demand service while still making people feel like they had an authentic, deeply personal experience. Take the time to send a more personal email or to reply to their tweets.
  2. Know that customers crave a connection to simpler times. Nobody wants to interact with a machine. Customers want to have the ability to pick up the phone and talk or communicate face-to-face with a human being who shares their interests. These interactions should be to the point but also have compassion and empathy – part Silicon Valley efficiency and part “Main Street” values.
  3. Fit in with the growing artisanal movement. Gone is the mass-produced junk offered in the last few years. Shoppers are now choosing products and services that are unique and customized. The craft beer craze is an excellent example of this. Microbrewers have reclaimed the art of beer making, and more and more people are falling in love with craft beers because of this.
  4. Your service style will help you stand out from the pack. This is the most compelling reason to adopt an old-school approach to customer service. With so much competition, the way you treat and relate to your customers might be the only thing that defines your brand and helps sustain your business. Even though technology is ever advancing, the basic need of human interaction has remained the same.

Networking Tips for Newbies

Let’s face it, networking is scary. For soon-to-be graduates such as myself, even the word “networking” seems intimidating. However, networking really is key to making your career possible. Rather than attending hundreds of events to make maybe a few connections, it’s better to be strategic about your networking. Taking a systematic approach to networking and using a plan will help ease the tension and result in more meaningful business relationships.

Here are a few tips to help make networking more enjoyable and effective:

1. Find the right events.

Use social media outlets to find new events through your friends and local venues.

  • Facebook: Take an informal approach by joining a group or Facebook event.
  • LinkedIn: These groups are associated with specific industries and often post events. This can offer insight into specific group members’ professional experiences and interests.
  • Meetup: Use this site as a resource for finding groups in professional and non-professional contexts. Most of these groups meet regularly.
  • Eventbrite: This site provides a simple, categorized search and map of local upcoming events.

2. Arrive prepared.

Create a long-term plan by choosing the events most likely to be attended by the types of people you are looking to connect with.

When you have an upcoming event, do some research beforehand. Look at previous events by the same host or organization to see what they have to offer. Check to see if a guest or sponsors list is available. Then, see if you share common connections with participants and request an introduction.

3. Actively understand other’s needs.

When you get to the event, be sure to an approachable demeanor. It is likely that everyone is experiencing the same anxiety as you and acting relaxed will make others around you feel more comfortable themselves.

Take the initiative to start a few conversations or join group discussions instead of waiting for others to come to you. Introduce yourself or casually ask: “How are you liking the event?” or “What do you do?” Listen carefully to the dialogue so that you can align what customers need with what you offer. At this point you may present a more targeted pitch.

When you do exchange contact information and business cards, quickly jot down some mental notes about your conversation to help with memory recall later.

4. Stick around for the aftermath.

As the event comes to a close, remember that you don’t necessarily need to leave right away, especially if things are going well.

If there is an after party, gather some of your new connections and go together. If there is a lunch session, ask permission to join someone’s table. If there is nothing planned, take action and invite people to continue the conversation over dinner or drinks.

Later that evening, connect with the people you have just met on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. That way, you’ll have multiple channels in which you can communicate.

5 Ways to Kill Writer’s Block for Good

Situation: you have something to write – a challenging email, a brief or presentation about a new project, a post for your blog you have been struggling to keep up with – and a deadline to meet, but you are at a loss for words when you put your fingers to the keyboard.

What follows is a cycle of looking at the screen, walking away, writing a few sentences, deleting them, and then walking away again. Claiming “writer’s block” is an excuse that many of us use, but it is a problem that you have complete control over. The solution is to break this negative cycle by starting a positive one and to take action to obliterate writer’s block once and for all.

Here are 5 simple approaches to get unstuck:

  1. Allow imperfections. Lower your expectations for your first draft and give yourself permission to write poorly. The American poet William Stafford said, “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” Having high expectations for your first draft will ensure your fingers freeze up and crush your confidence.
  2. Mind map. Grab a blank sheet of paper and some colorful markers. Start scribbling words and phrases about your message. Take a few ideas from your mind map and put them together to help form content.
  3. Record yourself. Maybe your issue is between your brain and your fingers. Speak your ideas into a voice recorder or even leave a voicemail for yourself. This helps to shorten the distance the message has to travel.
  4. Talk it out. Call a friend or sit down with someone face to face. Ramble to them about your idea, have them take notes, and restate what you said.
  5. Shrink the task. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Break your work into smaller chunks to make it more manageable: write the headlines, insert your bio, or drop in the page numbers.

 

Remember that you have written before, and you will write again. Start by choosing one of the tasks from this list, and you will be writing up a storm in no time.